Serving God’s will… one way or another

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Two days before the feast of the Holy Cross, the daily Gospel reading comes from the Book of John. The reading finds the Jewish religious authorities plotting how to deal with the “problem” of Jesus.

John writes that, “Caiaphas, who was high priest that year, said to them, ‘You know nothing at all; you do not understand that it is expedient for you that one man should die for the people, and that the whole nation should not perish.’ … So from that day on they took counsel how to put Jesus to death.”

What Caiaphas meant was that it was better to get rid of Jesus than to risk his actions bringing the wrath of the Romans down on all the Jewish people (and in particular on their rulers).

St. John and his readers understand a deeper meaning in Caiaphas’ words. John explains that Caiaphas “did not say this of his own accord, but being high priest that year he prophesied that Jesus should die for the nation, and not for the nation only, but to gather into one the children of God who are scattered abroad.”

Our typical image of a prophet is a deeply pious man or woman, maybe a strict ascetic, with eyes that obviously see deeper into reality than we are capable of. In this case, though, the prophet is a religious fat cat, concerned with self preservation and actively working against God’s plan for the world. But for all his myopia, Caiaphas had no idea how right he was.

Throughout history, God’s work always gets done. He is God, after all. One way that God carries out his will is with our cooperation. In the Orthodox Church we call this “synergy,” and this is God’s preferred way of getting things done. The more we cooperate with God’s will, the closer we draw to him and his kingdom. The “Kingdom of God” is any place, any situation, where God’s will reigns supreme.

God’s will can also be done without us. God’s will is often done in spite of us–in spite of our resistance, negligence, or just plain old laziness. Turning away from God’s will is not good. It means turning away from God himself.

C. S. Lewis said, “You will certainly carry out God’s purpose, however you act, but it makes a difference to you whether you serve like Judas or like John.” One way or another, God’s will gets done. With us, or in spite of us… its entirely our call. Neither way impacts the trajectory of the Lord’s providence. For us, however, the first way is infinitely more desirable.

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